Back in 2009 Harry Reid made a big deal out of Nevada getting PILT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) funding. It was manna from heaven. Free money just lying on the ground to be picked up.
Reid boasted that he himself personally had “forced” the Congress to fully fund PILT through 2012, because the federal government “owns” more than 87 percent of Nevada’s land — the highest percentage of any state — making that land non-taxable.
A couple of days ago Rep. Shelley Berkley reported on her website that Nevada is getting $23.9 million in PILT money this year.
“This $23.9 million comes at a time when counties and cities in our State are struggling to find funding to cover vital needs and to serve the families and businesses who call Nevada’s communities home. I am proud of my long record of support for PILT funding to aid Nevada which has a higher percentage of land under federal control than any other State,” Berkley was quoted as saying.
Well, isn’t that special.
But I always like to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Everything is relative. All things look different in perspective. Not that anyone in the news media would bother to pull up the calculator on their laptop computers and, well, do the math.
Since the federal government is lord, master and royal gamekeeper over approximately 60 million acres of land in Nevada, PILT works out to roughly 40 cents an acre. Since the market value of that land is difficult to estimate, it would be hard to calculate what that acreage could fetch in property taxes were it in private hands.
The payments to the counties vary wildly. For example, Esmeralda County is paid only 6 cents an acre while Douglas County fetches $2.50 per acre. On a population basis, Esmeralda is getting nearly $65 per capita compared to $13 for Douglas. While Clark gets 70 cents per acre, that amounts to only $1.60 per head.
Other examples: Eureka, 15 cents per acre and $165 per capita; White Pine, 22 cents/acre and nearly $116/capita; Mineral, 33 cents/acre and $138/capita; Carson City, $2/acre and $2/capita.
But that is just the internal disparities and merely for amusement. The real perspective is when you look at how that $23.9 million counts in the grand scheme of tax equity and state-by-state fairness.
You see that PILT money amounts to about $8.88 per Nevadan — man, woman and child as they like to say. But the average Nevada federal tax burden amounts to about $9,000 per capita. According to the Tax Foundation, Nevada receives only $5,889 in federal allotments, the lowest in the nation, and at 65 cents returned for every dollar sent to D.C., the second lowest ratio in the nation, behind only New Jersey.
Thank you, great and powerful senate majority leader who makes it rain manna from the federal larder, well maybe a light dew.
As for that $8.88 per head PILT check, compare that to Utah’s $13, New Mexico’s $17, Idaho’s $17, Montana’s $26 and Alaska’s $38. Let’s see, Washington robs you of $9,000 at gunpoint and then expects you to be grateful when they hand you a check for $9.